Definition of kamikaze in US English:



  • 1(in World War II) a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target.

    • ‘The terrorists used civilian aircraft as kamikazes to blast American centers of commerce and destroy global symbols of American power.’
    • ‘Alongside the land side Japanese defences, the Japanese high command put their faith in the kamikazes which it was believed would inflict such serious casualties on the Americans in Okinawa that they would retreat.’
    • ‘One point Hanson alludes to is the real difference between the Japanese kamikaze as a tactical weapon of terror and the fanatical suicide zealot as a terrorist.’
    • ‘Iwo Jima helped teach us how to deal with kamikazes.’
    • ‘In all subsequent amphibious campaigns - Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa - the carriers battled land-based Japanese kamikazes, striking their airfields and other strategic targets.’
    • ‘Admittedly, people have made too much of the apocryphal remark attributed to Adm Chester Nimitz that no surprises occurred in the Second World War in the Pacific except the kamikazes.’
    • ‘These attacks continued to the end of the war, and while modern conventional air defenses inflicted heavy casualties, enough kamikazes got through to their targets to inflict serious losses on US naval ships and personnel.’
    • ‘This culminated in the thousands of young Japanese who volunteered for the kamikazes - either through the use of planes or as ‘human torpedoes’.’
    • ‘For example, a night fight against kamikazes during battle for Okinawa, with antiaircraft shells and tracers and exploding airplanes lighting up the sky, is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on film.’
    • ‘Robot kamikazes will soon be so cheap that anyone that nurses a grudge with the US can stock up on thousands of them, so many that it would be absurd to think that any countermeasure will be effective.’
    1. 1.1 The pilot of an aircraft making a deliberate suicidal crash.
      • ‘The Pacific fighting had taken a new and terrible turn and the kamikazes were a totally alien idea to American culture, a fact that surrounded the suicide planes with even more horror.’
      • ‘Far murkier is what did they believe they would accomplish, these modern-day kamikazes with their box-cutters, their commandeered jets and their insane visions of vengeance?’
      • ‘The next mistake concerns the Japanese decision to use suicide troops, or kamikazes, in the later stages of the war.’
      • ‘The Homeland Defence Force had the potential to run into many thousands in the area and the kamikazes had shown the Allies that the Japanese were quite willing to die for the emperor and Japan.’


  • 1attributive Relating to a kamikaze attack or pilot.

    • ‘It has been estimated that 5,000 kamikaze pilots died.’
    • ‘Suicidal attacks by undisguised military forces, exemplified by Japanese kamikaze attacks during World War II, are not a violation of the laws of war.’
    • ‘References to Pearl Harbor and kamikaze pilots could stir up old WWII prejudices against Japanese-Americans.’
    • ‘They came at him from every direction, not moving with their usual shuffle, but in a frenzied kamikaze attack.’
    • ‘At Okinawa in 1945, out of 193 kamikaze attacks, 169 planes were destroyed.’
    • ‘Their value to the fleet was highlighted during the invasion of Okinawa, when kamikaze attacks upon the Fifth Fleet created high numbers of casualties among the forces afloat.’
    • ‘But the spectre of kamikaze strikes makes any talk of the potentially positive contribution nuclear energy could make to a balanced and renewable energy supply fraught with difficulty.’
    • ‘However, the destruction of so many kamikaze flights did a great deal to undermine the potential for damage that the kamikazes could have inflicted.’
    • ‘The kamikaze attacks were a demonstration of spiritual courage and determination.’
    • ‘The first modern instance was in 1944-45, when the US navy was confronted by kamikaze pilots trying to fly planes loaded with high explosive into their ships as they approached Japan.’
    1. 1.1 Reckless or potentially self-destructive.
      ‘he made a kamikaze run across three lanes of traffic’
      • ‘Richard does a kamikaze run in minus 20 celsius and snowing weather, getting pelted with paintballs.’
      • ‘Lee bounds to the crease like jello on springs, Collingwood dabs him down and England take another kamikaze run.’
      • ‘Yet there are worrying signs that the prime minister plans to end his war against the real Labour party with kamikaze attacks on its most cherished values.’


Japanese, from kami ‘divinity’ + kaze ‘wind’, originally referring to the gale that, in Japanese tradition, destroyed the fleet of invading Mongols in 1281.